Literary Criticism As Creative Nonfiction

Surely there’s a lot of writing about writing, but what sort of artistic liberty and empowerment is afforded through the marriage of creative nonfiction and literary critique?

  1. A launching point – Working off the backbone of some pre-established and thoroughly vetted literary work allows a writer to tailor any particular piece to a message that already “works”. It offers familiarity and context from the instant it is brought into the new work. That advantage is mostly implicit in any intertextual reference, but when adequate focus is dedicated to critique, it is an undeniably explicit sign to the reader that contrast or comparison will follow.
  2. Jury instructions – Any analysis offered by the author in this sub-genre will likely serve as a guide to the reader on what is most important to pay attention to when reading the new work. To some extent, this may allow the writer to be more “subtle”, for lack of a better word, and to provide tangentially related information with some confidence that it can be tied together with use of the analysis. In other words, “here is the evidence, and this is the lens to use in reaching a verdict”.
  3. Accessibility – This can really play out for better or for worse. The choices in cross-textual references can invite readers by their familiarity or completely isolate them. There is some obligation to make the analysis sufficient to avoid the latter, and there may be cause for concern that familiarity may come with insatiable expectations.

The last point begs the important question as to whether this is a tool or a crutch, but that much is the responsibility of the author. For some examples of literary criticism as creative nonfiction – see:

JOSHUA – MAX APPLE

BOOK MARKS – REBECCA MCCLANAHAN

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